A History of Preston in Hertfordshire
Anyone for tennis?
A man who moved to Preston in around 1916 observed the birth of tennis in the village after WW1.
He wrote, ‘The Tennis Club …was formed in the early Twenties and was such an immediate success
that a second court had to be opened. Apart from evening and Saturday games, there were
tournaments played against Breachwood Green, Wymondley, Shillington and clubs from St Albans
and Hitchin. In the Thirties, which were probably the peak years of the Club, the membership and
standard of play was high and it was during this period that Miss Rose Ashton played Miss Maggie
Wray (now Mrs R Whitby, shown below) in a great ladies single final for the Club championship. A
large number of North Herts tennis fans watched this match and also a few sixpences were won and
lost on the result.’ (D Frost)
The newspapers of the day confirmed this memory - see later:
Another account valued this gift at £450 and Mr Frost added that the courts were where ‘now children
happily swing and cars park where once a sterling battle was fought’.
Maggie Wray (shown above, right) and her brother, Sam. would ‘tend’ the courts and their immediate
neighbour, Eileen Newell, also played tennis there.
There are several news reports of tennis at Preston from 1927 until 1935, which not only confirm
when the sport was played, but also identify the players. In March 1927, a Whist Drive was held to
Mr Gibson was probably Benjamin Gibson who lived at The Bothy in the Temple Dinsley grounds in
1927/28. RJW Dawson was the Temple Dinsley estate manager, who lived at Crunnells Green House
and G Dawson was likely his son, (Reginald) Gordon Dawson - both father and son also played
cricket for Preston. W Darton was William, who moved from Temple Farm to Kiln Wood Cottage,
while W Peters was ‘Jockey’ Peters - both of whom had strong connections to Preston Cricket Club.
1 August 1929
10 August 1929
The Preston players in the report:
Mr Petterson lived at Sootfield Green.
Miss (Rose) Ashton was the daughter of Preston’s baker, Thomas. Link: Ashton
Mr R G Dawson was the Temple Dinsley Estate manager, living at Crunnells Green House. Link
Miss Baulk was born locally in the summer of 1912 and lived at Thirstley Bungalow between
Gosmore and Preston. She kept riding stables. Link: Cropper
Mr W Darton was William Alfred Darton, who was living at Kiln Wood Cottage in 1919. He married
Emily Thoday at St Martins, Preston on 11 April 1936.
Miss Wray was my aunt, Maggie, who married Ron Whitby. Link: Maggie Whitby
Mr D Towns was living at The Bothy on the Temple Dinsley Estate in 1929.
Mrs L Peters may be Lucy, the wife of Edward Peters who married at Paddington in the spring of
1908. Link: Peters
From the following report, Frederick Hooper lived at The Bungalow, Tatmore.
Mr Frost reported that ‘Tennis was again started after [WW2], but the lack of young players taking up
the game resulted in the club being closed down’.
Perhaps the implication of the next report is that the Tennis Club was struggling to arrange fixtures.